China’s zero COVID policy drives xenophobia

China’s zero COVID policy drives xenophobia

China’s handling of COVID-19 and other outbreaks is a politically complicated matter, especially when it comes to foreigners.

In late September, Zunyou Wu, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told citizens to avoid contact with foreigners, who have already leave the country in large quantities, to stop the spread of monkeypox. wu now edited weibo post It came a day after the first case of monkeypox was confirmed in China.

In light of these comments, users of Douyin, the separate Chinese version of TikTok, are taking note.

China’s handling of COVID-19 and other outbreaks is a politically complicated matter, especially when it comes to foreigners.

In late September, Zunyou Wu, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told citizens to avoid contact with foreigners, who have already leave the country in large quantities, to stop the spread of monkeypox. wu now edited weibo post It came a day after the first case of monkeypox was confirmed in China.

In light of these comments, users of Douyin, the separate Chinese version of TikTok, are taking note.

“Stay away from foreigners, cherish your life,” wrote a user from Guangxi.

“Good thing I’m uneducated, I’m not going to make any contact with foreigners,” said another user from Chongqing.

The warning, which has gone viral on social media, points to a pattern of xenophobic and ethno-nationalist language being increasingly used by Chinese government officials, something that foreigners, who remain in China after two years of strict pandemic policies, They struggle to understand. of.

“Your statement is clearly intended to confuse the public, and perhaps even propagandize. [Chinese citizens] against foreigners by using overly politicized public health messages about the monkeypox epidemic,” said Sulayman Aziz, an epidemiologist and acting foreign minister for the East Turkistan Government-in-Exile in Washington, a Uyghur activist group. Foreign policy by email “Public health communication is intended to educate the public in an attempt to control the spread of an epidemic disease, not to cause confusion, alarm, discrimination, or xenophobic attitudes.”

To clarify, monkeypox is spread by direct contact with someone who has the viral disease, not through foreigners in general. the viral disease it is spread during “prolonged face-to-face contact” or intimate physical contact, such as kissing or sexual intercourse, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For foreigners living in China, the disease’s stigma and mistrust have become common in the past two years.

“My initial thoughts were total shock, hypocrisy and ignorance,” said Zolile Lusiba, a South African who has spent the last five years living in China. “[Wu] they should know that viruses and diseases have nothing to do with the nationality of people.” Although Lusiba and approximately 845,697 foreigners call the countryside home, many expats Y human rights organizations have commented on racism and xenophobia, especially against people from developing countries.

Expats, especially black foreigners like those living in Guangzhou, have become increasingly entry denied in restaurants, and many have been targets of abuse both online and in person.

Some foreigners from Japan and the United States say they were specifically given anal COVID-19 tests instead of the usual nasal or throat swab, causing them “psychological distress.” Medical experts in the United States question China’s reasoning for the anal swabsstating that the “gold standard” for detecting COVID-19 is a nasal or throat swab, as COVID-19 is known to be a respiratory disease.

Statements like Wu’s add fuel to the fire. But they are not exactly new. In the 1980s, AIDS in Asia was thought to be the “westerner’s disease” spread by people from “foreign lands” and often associated with “homosexuality and prostitution”. The outbreak of monkeypox among gay American men appears to have created a renewal of such fears in China.

“There are long-term foreign residents in China who have not left the country due to COVID,” said Sari Arho Havren, a visiting researcher at the University of Helsinki who specializes in China’s foreign relations. “Now they will be easily labeled as contagious.”

“Discrimination of foreigners in China with misinformation using public health messages is not a new phenomenon at all,” Aziz said. “In early 2020, Chinese authorities treated Africans in Guangzhou as a ‘virus’, even though COVID-19 originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.”

At that time, the owners were told that they needed expel african expatswhich, in turn, left many of them homeless.

“Yes this [xenophobia] was happening in America, I’m sure it would be all over the news,” Lusiba added. “Not well.”

More recently, under the guise of COVID-19 prevention measures, officials have shut down entire cities, forcing residents in places like Carry off, Chengdu, Beijing and Xinjiang to quarantine at home or in specific quarantine centers for long periods. The various city lockdowns across the country affect all residents, not just foreigners, with many of them posting online in frustration that they have run out of supplies at home.

Some residents see the country’s lockdown measures as a political means of division, as China has strategically targeted groups from its autonomous regions like Xinjiang.

At least 22 people in Ghulja, Xinjiang, he died within a day due to starvation or lack of medical care under the enforced quarantine. Other reports have shown multiple deaths among Uyghurs after their homes were destroyed. sprayed with disinfectant to fight against COVID-19.

“The Uyghur people are dying daily from the forced man-made famine in China,” Aziz added.

In April, a conversation of a wechat group went viral after one person suggested eating their black neighbor due to lack of food and supplies amid China’s strict lockdown measures. Unbeknownst to the group, their black neighbor, Jacobie Kinsey, knew Chinese and understood the entire conversation.

“It’s emotionally damaging, it’s dehumanizing and it’s just not right,” Lusiba said of the xenophobia and racism she has experienced in recent years. “A person doesn’t have to push you, kill you, or shoot you to attack you. I feel attacked, and many other foreigners feel attacked. It’s not healthy and it’s not right.”

His friends in China, however, are not taking everything officials have said at face value.

“I have Chinese friends in the groups I’m in, and they’re not following this silly advice that they should stay away from foreigners,” he said. “They know better. They are not ignorant.”

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